Never Was Makes Interesting Tale
By Brent Zimmerman
mention of Carson City causes most collectors'
ears to perk up a bit. And everyone knows that
the main United States mint is, and always has
been located in Philadelphia. Three other
locations of early U.S. mints in the South have
been Dahlonega, Ga., Charlotte, N.C., and New
In addition to Philadelphia, the current mints
are the famous San Francisco branch mint, the
Denver Mint and the toddler West Point, N.Y.,
facility which has been in business since only
1973 as compared to 1792, 1854 and 1906,
respectively, for the other three.
But how many of us have heard of the U.S mint
that was located in The Dalles in Oregon? Could
we have had a "TD" mintmark? Or perhaps "DC," as
it was originally known as Dalles City. I invite
you to take a walk with me, back to the
mid-1800s, as we learn about this fascinating
story, and some of the people and the events
Then called Dalles City, it was the departure
point in the 1840s that thousands of pioneers,
bypassing the mountains, rafted down the
Columbia river to the Willamette river, and
settled in its rich western Oregon valley.
The Dalles was the end of the land route of the
Oregon Trail. In the fall of 1849, U.S. Army
troops arrived in the new Oregon Territory and
established a military outpost at The Dalles,
with a log fort finished in 1850 and named Fort
Dalles. The town was a missionary and military
center. Army troops assigned there were to keep
tabs on Indians.
On July 13, 1861, William Logan received a
coveted patronage appointment as U.S. Indian
agent for the Warm Springs Reservation by
President Abraham Lincoln. Mr. Logan located his
new home on Fifteen Mile Creek, and there was a
good reason why. The new home's location was
within fairly easy reach northward to The Dalles,
site of the Warm Springs administrative offices,
and shortened the distance southward to the
reservation, 80 miles below The Dalles.
Logan foresaw trouble for Warm Springs when
reports had told of great amounts of gold
discovered on Oct. 23, 1861. What he did not
foresee was that the bonanza would lead to a
mint being built in The Dalles.
The first find was in a gulch leading into the
Powder river. Near the site of the first strike
rose Auburn, capital of the gold rush, in the
Elkhorn range of the Blue Mountains, eight miles
southwest of today's Baker city. Today Auburn is
gone not even a ghost town remains. But, from
this area once left armed parties toting
millions upon millions of dollars' worth of
Men on horseback, pack mules, freight wagons and
stage coaches overcame 800 winding miles of
almost impassible trails to get the treasure to
the big trading center of The Dalles.
Somewhere out there in the mining crowd was
Logan's ex-workers. The almost legendary Blue
Bucket Mine of Oregon Trail lore led to the
eastern Oregon gold discovery. The find was
made, almost accidentally, by the remnants of a
party of 50 men, mostly in their 20s and 30s.
They had set out from distant Portland to seek
the Blue Bucket. The party, dwindled to a weary
22, camped in a high elevation one chilly fall
evening. To keep warm, Henry Griffin dug into a
gravely bank. He spotted bright flecks of gold.
His buddy, David Littlefield, agreed. As they
dug to the bedrock, the gold increased. The
party had struck it rich.
Each of the 22 men staked out a claim. All but
four departed before winter closed in. Left to
try and mine in the snows were Griffin,
Littlefield, F.W. Schriver and William Stafford.
By spring, they had a hefty fortune. With
supplies low, Littlefield and Schriver set off
for "the outside" to convert part of their hoard
into food, clothing and equipment.
They trudged 300 miles to Fort Walla Walla. When
storekeepers looked askew at the dust, a visitor
stepped forward. He was the merchant-trader
Orlando Humason of W.C. Moody & Co. of The
Dalles, one of Logan's business partners. Then
and there Humason made Moody & Co. a gold
trading firm. He bought the raw gold.
Suddenly, the gold flames flashed again. It came
on June 7, 1862, at Whiskey Gulch on Canyon
Creek, south and a bit east of Warm springs,
near the present Canyon City area. Here
prospectors spotted gold nuggets in a clear
stream. Some $26 million in gold came from that
single little canyon alone, says Miles F. Potter
in his book, Oregon's Golden Years. In another
account about The Dalles, from his book Across
the Continent, Samuel Bowles stated: "Two
million dollars in gold dust came in here from
eastern Oregon and Idaho in the single month of
June last (1865)".
The gold strike news spread like wild fire. The
"flames" fanned out into all the Owyhee country
- eastern Oregon and parts of Idaho, Washington
and Montana. Prospectors swarmed in. In 1862
there were some 80,000 prospectors who were
seeking and finding their fortunes. It was a
full-fledged gold rush. This also led to demands
for a mint to be built in the region.
The Dalles, nerve center of the vast gold rush,
reached a population at times of 10,000,
counting those coming in from the diggings, or
going to them. It was here that the raw gold
seemed to always flow. It was a busy,
rip-roaring city. Business boomed, including
such 24-hour conveniences as saloons, gambling
joints and houses of ill repute. Every man
carried a handgun.
Some years later, the Dalles Chronicle commented
on the times: "Payment for all commodities was
made in gold dust. The god of gold reigned
supreme in The Dalles. Human values were
forgotten. Bags of gold were handled about as
freely as other commodities. They were passed
across the counter and gambling tables or bars
in payment (of) merchandise, debts or drinks.
There was no service for less than $1. The Wells
Fargo Express Co. carried the gold dust and
bullion to the San Francisco mint by boat". Gold
coins, nearly all of the Coronet type, were the
media of exchange, although gold dust was
accepted. Silver coins were few and far between,
with any that were found being mostly the Seated
Dealers paid $15 to $17 a troy ounce for native
gold, depending on purity. It brought up to
$20.67 at the San Francisco Mint, some 1,000
miles away. The gold moved from The Dalles via
riverboat more than 90 miles to the fresh water
seaport at Portland, and then on ocean going
vessels down the lower Columbia to the Pacific
Ocean and on to the Golden Gate - a clumsy,
costly arrangement. A U.S. mint and assay office
was needed closer to the mines.
All things considered, The Dalles was the
logical site. It was the natural gateway to and
from the huge expanse of gold fields 300 miles
and more to the east. It was in The Dalles that
miners bought up supplies, and also returned
with their packs of the precious yellow ore. The
city began to challenge Portland, recognized as
the commercial center of the entire Oregon
On Dec. 17, 1862, Oregon's Senator James W.
Nesmith introduced a mint bill, with Portland as
the site named. It was estimated that in the
facilities first year, it would handle $10
million or more in raw gold. But compared to the
main mint in Philadelphia, this mint site, of
course, was in a far off and sparsely settled
part of the country - Oregon then being not
quite three years old as a state. But Nesmith's
bill was placed on the backburner by
congressional committees busy with the Civil
But on July 4, 1864, the 38th Congress in a
wartime session agreed with the Oregon
delegation that a mint should be built to turn
into coins and ingots the gold reaching The
"Be it enacted by the Senate and House of
Representatives of the United States of America
in Congress assembled, that a branch mint of the
United States be located and established at
Dalles City, in the State of Oregon, for the
coinage of gold and silver", states 13 Stat. L.,
382-83, which is the reference to the document
of 145 years ago.
The purpose: To mint coinage badly needed by the
North in its prosecution of the Civil War, and
to end the long and expensive shipments by water
of the raw gold to the San Francisco branch
mint, some 1,000 miles away. This shocked state
legislators and western Oregon diehards because
it named The Dalles as the mint site, not
Portland. Also enacted were the following
officers of said mint: one superintendent, one
assayer, one melter and refiner and one coiner.
The superintendent was allowed as many clerks
and laborers as needed to run the mint.
The Mint Act authorized the striking of both
gold and silver at The Dalles. But the
predominant metal in the region was gold, so
silver coins were probably not seriously
considered. Gold coins would have been the $1
Indian Princess Head (large head), $2.50 Classic
Head, possibly the $3 Indian Princess Head, and
$5, $10 and $20 Coronet Liberty Head coins.
In 1865, a bill which proposed changing the mint
site from The Dalles to Portland was introduced
in Congress, reflecting the sectional bickering
going on in Oregon. I guess there was political
turmoil, even back then. With sectionalism and
bureaucratic delays, there was no mint activity
at all in The Dalles. Gold bullion accumulated
there, and crowds of young miners made it a
Construction that had started at the now famous
branch mint in Carson City in 1866, created new
hope in frontier Oregon. But yet another idle
year passed by. The only action taken on The
Dalles mint act was Congress' decision not to
change the site.
In 1865, having set an impressive management
record as U.S. Indian agent, William Logan was
given an even more prestigious federal
appointment - superintendent of the U.S. branch
mint at The Dalles. President Lincoln knew of
Logan, and favorably, from his record and
through several mutual friends. They may have
Logan appeared to be an honest, talented and
well liked man of the Old West. The Dalles
newspaper, the Mountaineer, described him as "a
friendly man of great natural abilities and
commanding presence ... a leading citizen,
generous to a fault".
Around midyear, 1865, William Logan, his wife
Izza and their son Hugh, 15, left for San
Francisco to find medical help for Mrs. Logan,
who had been suffering from an illness for three
months. They checked in at the Russ House on
June 17. Mrs. Logan responded well to treatment.
On the afternoon before departing to return home
on the ill-fated steamer S.S. Brother Jonathon,
Logan and his young son Hugh Logan, who was to
remain in San Francisco longer, went to the
sub-treasury and picked up $15,000 for Indian
Affairs. All the government money was in the
Mr. and Mrs. Logan boarded the 220-foot ship on
the morning of July 28, 1865. It was a 1,360-ton
sidewheeler, which sat low in the water with a
heavy load of 500 tons of cargo. It consisted of
machinery, casks of whiskey and a large amount
of money. The vessel held between 220 and 255
passengers and crew. Among the passengers was
Major E.W. Eddy, an army paymaster, and his
clerk, taking $200,000 in U.S. Notes north for
Over the next two days of sailing, the wind
intensified beyond gale force, and the waves ran
mountain-top high. On July 30, 1865, at midday,
the ship's end was drawing near. As Capt. Samuel
J. DeWolf tried in vain to guide his craft to
safety in the harbor of Crescent City, a huge
wave tossed the ship, and impaled it on the
undersea tip of Saint George Reef, eight miles
off the shore. The impact was so jarring that
both passengers and crew were tossed overboard.
As the ship broke apart, one lifeboat load of 19
persons reached shore. William and Izza were not
among them. So ended the would-be legacy of The
Dalles first mint superintendent, William Logan.
Had he lived, the story of the mint at The
Dalles might have been a far different one. The
ship was finally located in 1993. A bounty of
more than 1,200 gold coins was recovered,
dominated by mint state 1865-S double eagles.
According to the Wasco County book of deeds,
Mary Laughlin, who was the widow of William
Laughlin (Wasco county pioneers), donated a one
block site for the mint on June 6, 1865.
Almost three years later, the Mountaineer broke
the good news that two local men had been named
to start the branch mint project. Harvey A.
Hogue was appointed construction superintendent,
and D.M. French, disbursing agent. Then there
was silence from the East.
Six weeks later the impatient Mountaineer
assumed there had been another runaround. It
told readers, "Our faith in the final building
and establishment of the branch mint in The
Dalles wavers, flickers, dies and skedaddles. We
advise our friends to no longer hold the future
of our town upon the building of the branch
mint, as we honestly believe that it will never
However, on June 27, 1868, the Mountaineer was
glad to report that "a commission was received
by H.A. Hogue as superintendent (of
construction) and D.M. French as disbursing
agent for erection of the branch mint. Once more
indications are favorable that the long talked
of branch mint will be built".
Local suppliers were to furnish brick, sand,
lime, lumber and similar supplies. Sandstone and
granite would be cut from quarries on Mill Creek
and hauled by horse-drawn drays five miles to
the mint site.
On the blueprints, the design for the mint
building was well proportioned and attractive.
To the non-architectural eye, it was shaped like
two rectangles, one larger than the other,
placed across each other. The Carson City Mint
is of similar design. Plans at The Dalles called
for the lengthwise portion to be just over 90
feet, by almost 51 feet. The crosswise section,
which had the main entrance at one end and an
engine-boiler room attached at the rear, was 63
feet by 51 feet, 8 inches.
"The building is to be two stories high, having
a basement under all of it", stated A.B. Mullet,
the Treasury departments' supervising architect.
"It will be constructed of stone and brick,
portions of it will be groined for brick floors
and portions will have wooden floors". The
blueprints were complete for the mint, but never
entirely used to complete the building.
The mint's bright top, had it been built as
planned, would have been a colorful landmark
visible for miles around from The Dalles, for it
was to be "painted with three coats of linseed
oil and Venetian red".
By April 1869, Hogue wrote to Mullet, stating,
"I hope to get the building erected and roof on
before winter. Yesterday I wrote you that I had
been to Portland for the purpose of procuring
more stone masons and cutters".
Sealed bids from suppliers were opened on April
29, 1869, by French, Hogue and Samuel I. Brooks
of the Department of Collector of the U.S.
Revenue Service. An idea of the project's size
and of the 1869 prices of materials is had from
a preview of successful bids. (The word "perch"
was used in a number of instances, and was a
measurement of stone, usually equal to 24.75
cubic feet). Following are some of the
A.C. Phelps, hauling dimension limestone from
J.H. Phillips, $3 per perch; A.C. Phelps,
hauling wall granite from quarry, $2.90 per
perch; Bulger & Gibbons, dimensional sandstone
quarried and delivered, $2.40 per perch; Bulger
& Gibbons, wall sandstone quarried and
delivered, $2.23 per perch; Bulger & Gibbons,
sand delivered, 4 cents per bushel; Abrams &
Newell, bricks delivered $15 per 1,000; Abrams &
Bonay, fir lumber delivered, $20 per 1,000 feet;
Abrams & Bonay, pine lumber delivered, $25 per
1,000 feet; J.M. French, Rosendale cement
delivered, $8.62 a barrel; J.M. French, Santa
Cruz lime delivered, $5.62 a barrel. Today,
those prices are almost unbelievable.
On June 11, 1869, the Mountaineer told its
readers that "the basement walls are almost
completed and the structure is beginning to
raise itself above the ground. The brick laying
is progressing finely and a great many beautiful
arches now span the basement built by Mr. Runey,
the mechanic in the brick department".
Late in 1869 the first floor of the structure
was completed and much admired for the beauty of
its stonework. The one-foot thick blocks, with
widths and lengths varying, some one foot and
others two, had raised outside surfaces, dressed
with flat borders. Later, in 1922 The Dalles
Chronicle wrote of the building "Each block was
dressed to perfect shape by skilled Dalles
masons. The window ledges are of one stone,
perfectly set in place. The spacious front
doorway is plain but attractive in the massive
stone arrangement, with a narrow border just
above the door. A wide single step leads to the
door. The same durability of structure marks the
interior, the partitions being of stone and
brick. The basement is a labyrinth of arched
stone supports and passageways".
Then, over a period of weeks, very little change
was noticed. Work had all but stopped. The
Mountaineer spoke on June 28, 1870: "We are
informed that orders have been received by
superintendent Hogue to suspend for the present,
work on the mint building". That was the end of
the dream of a mint at The Dalles. The famous
coinage act of Feb. 12, 1873, by omission, made
it official. The act named mints and assay
offices authorized to operate in the United
States. The Dalles branch had been omitted.
Several factors contributed to the demise of The
Dalles mint. First, of course, the Treasury and
Mint by policy did not want another mint.
Second, the region's gold rush was drawing to an
end in 1870, being nine years old. Cost
over-runs, workers leaving to work the gold
fields, and flooding from the Columbia River,
also contributed to the project running two
years behind schedule and led eventually to the
Gold production slowed, as the easily reached
surface gold had been recovered. Also by 1870,
roads had improved to handle stagecoach
shipments. This, and the coming of the railroads
to the West spelled the end of the complicated
passage of gold by river and deep sea vessels.
Then, too, money was becoming in exceedingly
short supply with the approach of a nationwide
financial depression which reached its peak with
the Panic of 1873.
Construction superintendent Hogue was placed in
charge of the one-story building and was to sell
off the government's surplus materials,
supplies, tools and equipment. But the mint was
not about to fade peacefully into limbo.
Instead, it was to play something of a hero's
role in a catastrophe that hit The Dalles in
1871. Hogue describes the action as he did for
"I regret to inform you ... that a disastrous
fire occurred in this city, destroying
completely 75 business houses, shops and
dwellings, in which the government sustained a
loss, approximating $1,500 in the burning of
lumber and tools". He also went on to narrate
the character of the fire, and how the little
mint building saved the day:
"The wind blew furiously, making a perfect
tempest of fire sweeping everything before it
houses, fences, sidewalks, street crossings,
shrubbery, trees ... on four entire blocks, 220
x 300 feet, and two half blocks. Burning
shingles were carried miles from the city by the
wind; one picked up three miles out. Two
haystacks were fired and burned from this cause,
more than a half a mile from the nearest fire".
It must have been with genuine pride in his
abbreviated building that Hogue wrote, "The fire
was not checked until it reached the mint
building, which being located in the center of a
block, constructed of stone, broke the current
and fury of the flames. And (the) adjoining
block above, being vacant, enabled the firemen
and citizens to control it, and prevented
further destruction of property".
Although the mint building escaped the flames of
1871, not so in 1943 when fire badly damaged the
rear interior. The structure, by then in private
ownership as it is today, was repaired in 1947.
On March 3, 1875, the 43rd Congress passed an
act giving the building to the state of Oregon,
not to The Dalles, which had provided the mint's
site. The donation was made "on condition that
the ... building and lot shall be appropriated
by the state ... to the use of some educational
or charitable institution".
Years later, the state, unable to find a proper
use for the structure, sold it in 1889 to
private citizens, allocating the money to public
education funds. A large concrete block addition
was later constructed on the north side of the
building and the building was put to other uses.
The building has sat vacant for years at a time
over the past century. However, there have been
a number of owners of the building, who have put
it to various uses.
In the early 1980s, it housed Ralph's Transfer &
Storage Co. Prior to that was the R.W. Hughes
Feed & Grain Co. It is currently home to the
Erin Glenn Winery.
The U.S. mint at The Dalles, however, was a
reality. The old building still stands after
almost 150 years, and still serves a purpose in
the 21st century.